Artist Paul Trevillion furious at Manchester City Council after plaques of players ‘pulled out of the ground’ with no notice

Manchester is famous for football. Say the name of our city anywhere in the world and before any mention of The Hacienda, Oasis or otherwise, it’s always ‘Manchester United’ or ‘Manchester City’.

As the unofficial capital of English football we’ve had the National Football Museum at Urbis since 2012, and with it the Football Walk of Fame.

Made up of lovingly crafted bronze plaques of the likes of Hurst, Ronaldo, Eusébio and Maldini, the Walk of Fame was created by artist Paul Trevillion as a shrine to the players who helped make Manchester the city it is today as well as a tribute to the greats that have graced the game elsewhere.

So when the plaques, carefully laid into the pavement of Cathedral Gardens, were suddenly nowhere to be seen this week, Paul was ‘nearly in tears’ to learn they had been pulled up without notice and without his permission.

These are Manchester legends, and they’ve just been pulled out of the ground

They have been removed to help accommodate the stalls for the regular events that take place in Cathedral Gardens including a Christmas ice rink.

Manchester Confidential approached Paul when we saw the plaques had been removed, and sadly this was news to him, with the 89-year old artist known for the likes of You Are the Ref comic strip upset at what he said were the ‘disrespectful’ actions of Manchester City Council.

2023 07 11 Football Plaques Anger 9 Vanessachampion Co Uk
Paul with Andy Burnham and Dennis Law unveiling Law's plaque Image:

“It’s disrespectful,” said Paul. “There are legends there, ones associated with Manchester too, the likes of Bobby Charlton and Georgie Best. It was three years of my life completing that work and making them absolutely perfect, only for them removed without notice.

“I’ve not had a word from the council, or from the National Football Museum. At no time in my life have I ever been treated like this - this is why it hurts so much. I’ve had Bobby Charlton signing my drawings of him saying ‘Thank you, Paul’. I’ve had Denis Law put his arm around me and say ‘You’ve captured me’. Pele asked me for his plaque.

“These are people at the heart of the game Manchester loves. I don’t know why the council did this."

2023 07 11 Football Plaques Anger 2
Paul's plaque of Bobby Charlton, signed by the United legend Image: Paul Trevillion

For a council that happily harks back to the city’s footballing glories when talking up its place in the world, it seems strange that they would see these plaques not as mini-shrines to be cared for, but obstacles in the way of stalls and Christmas ice rinks.

We asked Paul whether he saw any hypocrisy in the council’s actions, and he noted the use of another of his plaques in a recent lecture on women’s football, and how their removal flies in the face of what the city stands for.  

“Three months ago the Lily Parr plaque was used in a UCFB lecturer’s presentation to university students highlighting women’s football.

“Whatever the council do for the city, they have no right to remove those plaques - for these players who’ve done so much to just be pulled out of the ground.

“It’s disrespectful to the players, to me as an artist and to the city of Manchester.”

2023 07 11 Football Plaques Anger 10
The plaque-less pavement on Cathedral Gardens Image: Confidentials
2023 07 11 Football Plaques Anger 5 Vanessachampion Co Uk
Paul with United legend and friend Denis Law Image:

When asked what he would like to see happen now the plaques have been pulled up, Paul was straightforward.

“I want the plaques back and I’ll relocate them,” he said. “The copyright on every one of those plaques is mine. And if they remove them then every one must be returned to me. If they’re damaged then they’ll be held responsible. I’m nearly 90 and this took me three years of my life to create, which is very valuable, so I don’t take it lightly. It’s not going to end here.”

A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: "In recent years, particularly as Albert Square remains closed, Cathedral Gardens has become a busy event space.

“Increasingly, the Walk of Fame plaques were covered due to other activity in the square and we have therefore agreed to return them to the Football Walk of Fame organisation.

“We thank them for allowing us to display the plaques in the city for so long."

Manchester Confidential, on behalf of Paul, also asked MCC about the whereabouts of the plaques since they were removed, but received no response.

The Council tone is dismissive as can often be the case when they sneak actions through such as this one. Were the plaques, that lay flush with the ground, really such a problem? And Albert Square will reopen in two years maximum anyway. 

Councillors didn't appear to know anything about this happening either. A small piece of popular culture in a very busy area has disappeared unannounced while Aviva Studios at almost £211m has appeared in a scarcely used area. 

Jonathan Schofield, the editor of Manchester Confidential, and a well-known tour guide in the city, said: "This is shooting our own tourism offer in the foot. The plaques are really popular with guests. They are selfie central for people who come from all across Europe and the World to visit the National Football Museum or to take in a game. 

"There were so many countries represented with the plaques, Messi from Argentina, the two Ronaldos from Brazil and Portugal respectively and so on and so on. Guests loved to see their fellow countrymen represented. Sometimes you have to wonder whether the city takes tourism seriously."

Read next - ‘There’s no way I’m sharing these scallops’: Lucky Cat, Manchester, reviewed

Read again - Gary Neville's 'relentless' pursuit of the St Michael's development

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!